The Blazers will play the Lakers for the first time in the 2009/2010 season. It's at the Rose Garden, where L.A. hasn't won in eight tries, spanning back to 2005.
I'm pretty sure an eight-game losing streak in the Rose Garden, a rivalry that always gets heated, and prolonged supremacy in the West is plenty of motivation for the Lakers.
Without a big chunk of the team, the Blazers really have their work cut out. This Lakers team is no joke; even without Gasol they are easily the best team in the West and probably in the entire NBA.
Portland will have to be running on all cylinders and never have any lulls. I want to believe we can win this game, but it might be a mountain that is just too high.
There were reports yesterday that Andre Miller and coach Nate got into an argument during practice. Two grown men going at it and getting things off their chest. I like it. I think Miller will get plenty of PT and play with serious aggression tonight. He is better than Derek Fisher by a long shot.
Fisher is basically to Kobe what Steve Blake is to Brandon Roy. He just plays the complementary role and every so often he hits a big shot. He really is perfect for this team. But the Blazers get the nod.
This is a tough one. Brandon Roy has been amazing. He's done everything you ask for in a superstar. The only people we can legitimately put above him are LeBron, Wade, and Kobe.
So we've got Kobe tonight who has quietly had a brilliant year. As much as I like Roy, I think Bryant is going to be ferociously hungry to win this game. With no one to guard him, it's going to be tough. Kobe wins and I hate it.
As far as depth and important pieces for this Lakers team, the small forward has two great assets for Los Angeles. Ron Artest has come in and been a model citizen on the court. He works well in the system and just does his job. Shannon Brown has been a nice sixth man and a key piece off the bench.
Martell has truly been outstanding in his last three games, but there is no way he outplays these guys. I'm also not sure how Nate handles playing time for Dante Cunningham, but I would guess he'll get good time. Artest will abuse whoever he is matched up against though.
The Lakers will be without forward Pau Gasol tonight. For Portland's sake, that is really our only glimmer of hope in this game. Lamar Odom is a great player, but his attitude and inconsistency will be revealed once again in the Rose Garden.
I think LaMarcus Aldridge will have a monster game. He has to, in order for Portland to win. His ankle should be fine and that sweet jumper will be in full effect. Our LA wins.
When are we ever going to see Greg Oden versus Andrew Bynum? I would love to see it, but instead our undersized guys will attempt to take on Bynum and Mbenga.
Bynum has had his peaks and valleys this year. He's been good overall but still fades out in certain games. This would be a nice game for him to fade out in, but I don't see it with such a mismatch in the post. Lakers win this match-up.